How to Light Charcoal Without Chimney | Forget Chimney, Rest of The Ways Are So Great

Do you ever realize you are short a chimney and need to light charcoal? Find out some awesome tricks about how to light charcoal without chimney. 

Chimney starters are widely popular among BBQ lovers. The reason is that it’s a convenient device to use and requires less time compared to other options. Chimney starters also don’t need any chemicals like other popular options. 

However, if you always use a chimney for lighting charcoal and suddenly find yourself without one, what will you do?   

What if I tell you that you can light your charcoal without a chimney starter? Yes, you heard right. A chimney starter isn’t compulsory equipment for lighting charcoal. 

There are few other ways to do that. I’ll get to that later. First, let’s see why do you need to light charcoal without a chimney.

Why Do You Need to Light Charcoal Without Chimney

It’s better to keep your options open. You never know when you’ll need to go full DIY and light your bbq charcoal without a chimney starter. I was once invited to my friend’s place, and without any doubt, the barbequing responsibility was on my shoulder. 

As a cooking enthusiast, I like to keep all possible options at my disposal. But my friend didn’t own a chimney starter, so I had to do without one.

This was just one possible reason for lighting charcoal without a chimney. You can get into surprise situations like this where a chimney isn’t an option. 

Another reason could be that you are new to charcoal, so you are not familiar with a chimney starter. By the time you learn about a chimney starter, all of them get out of stock. Or simply they’re not available near you. 

You can also lose your chimney, and there’s a bbq event before you can buy a new one. Lastly, maybe you already gave the chimney starter a chance but didn’t like the procedure or didn’t feel comfortable using it.

All I’m saying is it’s better to keep your options open in case you ever need them. 

How to Light Charcoal Without Chimney – Another Six Magical Ways You Can Apply 

I’ve listed six other ways you can light charcoal without using a chimney starter. Some of them are very easy to find, and others don’t even need any extra equipment. Keep going and see which one will suit your preference.  

Light Your Charcoal With Lighter Fluid

To light charcoal with lighter fluid, follow the instruction I discussed below with precision, and you should be able to start a very satisfying bbq.  

Step -1

Round up your coals in a pyramid shape. Use enough charcoal, so you get multiple layers. Keep them close. The fire will spread from one piece to another quickly this way. In cold weather, use more charcoal than usual. 


 Pour lighter fluid on the coal. Make sure you use enough lighter fluid to soak all the coal. Don’t light a fire right away. It will make your charcoal burn faster. 

To keep the fire burning for long, you need to keep the coal soaked for a few minutes. Be very careful about not pouring any fluid on yourself. If you accidentally do so, change your clothing before lighting the fire. 


Use a long match or lighter to light the coals. Start the fire from several places to evenly light the charcoal. Keep the coal lit for about ten to fifteen minutes. 

Wait before the coal turns white-grey. If you start cooking right away, you will have a lighter fluid smell on your food. Avoid adding any more fluid once you’ve lit the coal. 


Spread the coals to place using tongs. Make sure you don’t burn yourself while doing it. Use protective gloves if necessary. 


  • Easy to get ingredients
  • Easy process of lighting charcoal


  • Releases harmful chemicals

Light Your Charcoal With Electric Starter

An electric starter is a very convenient way of lighting charcoal for barbeque, and it’s a quick process too. But you do need a power supply for this method.

Step -1

Pile your coal together in the grill. Keep them close together, so the fire spreads from one coal to another. 


Place the electric starter on top of the charcoal pile. Make sure the starter is placed horizontally and that it covers as much coal as possible. 


Connect the power cord of the electric starter to a power outlet. You can use an extension cord if necessary.


Wait for about 10 minutes and your coal should turn ash grey in daylight and burning red in the nighttime. The electric starter will get hot red and start spreading fire to the coals. 


Unplug the electric smoker and place it somewhere safe till it cools down. The coals are ready to be used for grilling in 10 minutes.  


  • It doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals
  • No other tools needed
  • Quick and easy charcoal lighting methods


  • The method requires a power supply source

Light Your Charcoal With Looftlighter

Another popular option among bbq lovers is a looftlighter. Follow the instructions below for lighting your charcoal with a looftlighter. 

Step -1

Clean your grill if there’s any residue from past use. Gather all charcoal as per your need and pile them up. Leave the bottom vent open until advised otherwise. 


Place the tip of your looftlighter on the place where you wish to ignite the charcoal. Press the power button on the looftlighter and wait till the charcoal lights causing smoke and fire. This only takes about 10 to 15 seconds. Turn off the looftlighter.


Follow step-2 with few other areas. Try to start the fire from several places to spread the fire fast. 


After you’ve ignited all the sections, use the looftlighter on the lit charcoals again. Re-spray for about 5 to 10 seconds per section. Hold your looftlighter about 6-inch away from the charcoal while doing this step.  


Close the lid of your grill, keeping the upper vent open. Keep it closed for about 5 minutes before you start cooking. 


  • Easy and hassle-free process
  • It takes less time to light charcoal
  • No harmful chemicals


  • Requires a power outlet
  • Difficult to use in the dark

Light Your Charcoal With Heat Gun

If you are a person who is always in a hurry, a heat gun might be a good idea for you. You can also use a heat gun for other purposes. It uses concentrated hot air to light up your charcoal


Gather the amount of charcoal you need and pile them on your grill. Point your heat gun to the area of charcoal you want to light up. Move the nozzle around. Don’t keep it faced towards the same coal for long. 

It only takes a few seconds to light up the charcoal with a heat gun.  Repeat the same process with several areas, and the other charcoals should catch up the fire. 


Take a few minutes to light up all the coals and give the coal time to burn enough to stay lit. And then you are good to go with your grilling. 


  • The heat gun requires less electricity than other options that require power
  • Easy to follow the process
  • It’s a fast and cheap procedure for lighting charcoal


  • The heat gun heats up a lot, so you have to be careful about not burning the coal too much

Light Your Charcoal With Propane Torch

Propane torches are easy to come by. You will often see that a propane torch is available where any of the other items are not. So it’s better to learn how to use that as an advantage. 


Bring all the charcoals together in a pile on your grill. Keep a propane torch ready near at hand. 


Light the propane torch towards an area of the charcoal pile. Hold it for about one minute. The coal should start to light up and turn orange. 


Repeat the same process with a few other charcoals from different directions. Keep doing it till all coals are lit. Once all coals are lit, you should be able to start grilling. 


  • It doesn’t require much time to light up the charcoal
  • No electric outlet or power is necessary for this method
  • It doesn’t leave a nasty smell on your food


  • Maintaining a propane torch requires extensive work and expense

Light Your Charcoal With Newspaper

The most basic way to light charcoal when you have nothing else is using old newspapers. Or any paper for that matter.


Keep the vents on your grill open. Take the newspaper and crumble them up. Place them in the middle of the grill.  


You can use vegetable oil or any other cooking oil to soak the newspapers for a better result if you want. It helps sustain the fire. Adding wood chips, small sticks also helps, but none of these are mandatory. 


Put the coals on top of the newspaper. Light the newspaper on fire from different directions. Wait till all the charcoals are lit. Use tongs to place the coals in place. 


  • Paper help you get a natural flavor 
  • No chemical releases
  • Cheap method 


  • The burnt papers leave ashes

How Do You Know If The Charcoal Is Lit?

If you are grilling in broad daylight, you can make sure your charcoal is lit when the color stays between grey and white. You will notice smoke and grey ash on the charcoal to ensure that your charcoal is lit. 

When grilling at night, it’s easier to identify lit charcoal. The coal turns smoking red to orange color range in the dark. It will cause smoke and spread lava-like color from the coal once it’s lit. 

My Favorite Way to Light Charcoal Without Chimney

As an experiment-lover, I’ve given all of the above methods a try. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages. When I’m not using a chimney starter, I prefer using the good old newspaper method to light my charcoal. 

Even though it requires more effort to clean the grill afterward, I find this method most convincing. It doesn’t affect my food taste, and I can find paper anywhere I want. I even used the paper bag my coals came in to light the coals.

Lighter fluid is very much popular. But I can’t accept the fact that chemicals are being absorbed by the food I’m cooking with so much dedication. I grill outside a lot, so it’s difficult for me to maintain a propane torch too.  

Both the electric starter and looftlighter require electricity, which is not always convenient to use when I’m barbequing outside. As for the heat gun, I don’t feel comfortable using it. SO that leaves me with the most basic way of lighting charcoal, using newspapers.  

To be honest, a chimney starter is really the most convenient among all other options. It’s easy to use, quick to bring results and doesn’t release any toxicity either. 

Mistakes You Should Avoid When Lighting Charcoal

Try avoiding the following mistakes while lighting charcoal to make your cooking experience smoother and keep the charcoal lit without any problems.

  • Not cleaning your grill before lighting the coals.
  • Not lighting the charcoals from different directions.
  • Not providing enough heat for the coals to light up.
  • Not giving the coals enough time to heat up before starting to cook.
  • Keeping the vents closed on your grill while the coals are burning up before cooking,
  • Keeping the lid open while the charcoal burns.

What Do You Do When Charcoal Doesn’t Stay Lit

Several reasons cause people to struggle to keep their charcoal lit. If you can identify why your charcoal isn’t staying lit, you can easily solve this problem. Watch for the following aspects when you can’t keep your charcoal lit.

  • See if your charcoal is dry or not. Wet charcoal won’t stay lit no matter how hard you try. If your charcoal is damp, change them. 
  • Don’t smother the coals. Make sure the charcoal gets enough air that’s compulsory for keeping the charcoal burning.
    Adequate airflow is the first condition for keeping the charcoal fire alive. You can use tools to provide air from the outside if the natural air isn’t enough.  
  • Stack your coals instead of laying them on a flat bottom. Coals are more likely to burn when they’re stacked together. They tend to spread the fire from one coal to another. If you keep your charcoals flat and separated from each other, some of them may not light. 
  • Some charcoals are hard to keep lit. Make sure you are using the right kind of charcoal. Choose the coals that are easy to light and easy to keep lit. 
  • Keep the vents open while giving time to light the charcoals. Most grills consist of two vents- one on top, another on the bottom. Keep them both open while burning your coal. 
  • Make sure you are using all precautions on a humid day. You can’t control the humidity, but you can certainly control your coal.


  • Can you relight charcoal?

Yes, you can. It’s a good reason not to waste your charcoals if they’re solid enough for use again. You can save the charcoal that is still solid and use it for the next grilling.
Most of the time, the charcoal burns the same as the first time, so I recommend saving the coal for reuse.  

  • Can I use tissue paper to light charcoal?

Yes. But tissue paper burns faster, and you will need a lot of tissue paper to light your charcoal. It’s better to use something thicker than tissue papers like newspapers or any other paper in general. 

  • Do you close the lid when lighting charcoal?

Keep the lid open when you are lighting the charcoal. Once they’re all lit, close the lid and let the charcoal burn. Keeping the lid closed helps the coal get ready for grilling faster and stays lit for longer. 

  • How do you keep a charcoal fire going?

Use dry charcoal, stack them instead of keeping them flat and separated, keep the vents open and use the right kind of charcoal. These should keep your charcoal fire going without any obstacle. 

  • Can I use vegetable oil to start a fire?

Yes, you can. In fact, vegetable oil is a very popular method when you are using paper to light your charcoal. It can keep your charcoal burning for longer than usual.

  • Can you use rubbing alcohol to light charcoal?

Yes, alcohol works as a lighting fluid for lighting charcoal. But make sure to let the alcohol burn before you start grilling. You can use alcohol to soak the paper and then use the paper to light the charcoal. 

  • Can you light charcoal with kerosene?

Kerosene is a strong fuel to light fire. But it leaves a weird smell on your food. So, I wouldn’t recommend you to use kerosene to light your charcoal. 

  • Can I use gas to light charcoal?

Gas doesn’t leave much strong smell on your food but is potentially dangerous. It’s better to use safer options for grilling. 

  • Can I use Ronsonol to light charcoal?

Ronsonol is a lighter fluid you can use to light charcoal cost-effectively. It’s a quick and easy way of lighting charcoal. But lighter fluids release harmful chemicals when used for lighting fire. So keep that in mind while using Ronsonol. 


To sum up, what I’ve been explaining, you can undoubtedly light your charcoal without using a chimney. Keep your options open and enlighten yourself about methods you didn’t even hear of before. 

When you have several procedures in your mind, you can just pick one of them on the spot and start grilling whenever you feel like it. Don’t just wait for a tool to be available before you can grill again. 

You can bring out your best skills with whatever you have near your hand. Keep grilling and keep learning about grilling. 

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